The Saudi monarchy doesn’t allow women to drive – but they do allow US Drone Bases
The Saudi monarchy doesn’t allow women to drive – but they do allow US Drone Bases
For all the guff you hear about ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ which idiots like the English Defence League and other bigots take to heart, western imperialism is quite happy with the most vicious and undemocratic state in the Middle East. That isn’t surprising since the Arab-American Oil Company (Standard Oil) virtually created the country, plucking a chieftain out of the desert and making him King Saud.
Today the ruling royal family numbers over two thousand and the vast wealth from oil is either used to buy American and British weaponry, which rusts in the desert, or it pays for the gambling chips, the prostitutes and the fine wines that our devout Saudi princes enjoy when in London or the West.
The official position of this corrupt gang of thieves – who cut off someone’s hand for stealing a loaf of bread but think nothing of enriching themselves with the oil that belongs to the Arab people – is that there are no US bases in Saudi Arabia. Another of many lies this self-serving elite peddles. So the following article in Israel’s Ha’aretz is well worth reading.
Exposure of base – believed to be used for strikes against Al-Qaida targets in Yemen and perhaps Iran – comes after news organizations, including the New York Times, held off on publication due to Obama administration requests on the basis of national security.
By Anshel Pfeffer Feb 10 2013
U.S. drone base in Saudi deserts
The reported U.S. drone base in Saudi deserts. Photo by Bing Maps
The American media has been in an uproar over the past week over reports on the existence of a secret American drone base built in Saudi Arabia for launching unmanned aerial reconnaissance and strike missions against Al-Qaida targets in Yemen and perhaps other countries such as Iran. Among other details, it has emerged that a number of news organizations, including the New York Times, were aware of the base’s location months ago but held off on publication due to a request by the administration that claimed that publication could harm national security.
Since the news came out, reporters and bloggers have been feverishly searching satellite footage documenting the base’s existence but it hasn’t been easy. It is very hard to discern any details in the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia which appear at a very low resolution on websites such as Google Earth, especially if you don’t know where to look. On Friday, Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired Magazine’s blog: Danger Room, managed to locate pictures of what is almost certainly the secret base.
Shachtman hinted that sources had pointed him in the right direction and photographs of the base indeed appeared in sharp focus on Bing Maps.
There are no aircraft to be seen in the pictures but the base contains three clamshell-shaped hangars, large enough to contain Predator or Reaper drones, the types most typically used by the United States Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency when conducting secret activity in the region, as well as, two relatively short runways. The base in an extremely isolated area, many kilometers from any road or settlement, in a vast desolate expanse in southeast Saudi Arabia known as Rub al-Khali, the empty quarter, not far from the border with Yemen. The base has only a few other buildings probably used by a small support staff, since the teams that pilot the drones are stationed at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, from which they control the aircraft via satellite link. The base most likely receives its supplies by air by light aircraft or helicopter. A third and longer runway seems from the photographs to be under construction and could be used in the future by larger unmanned aircraft such as the RQ-170.
The base apparently supports missions over Yemen but the range of the drones would enable them to fly over other nations including crossing the Persian Gulf to Iran. So far the drones have operated from existing bases in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, from which also manned aircraft take off. This is the first base which is known to have been constructed solely for unmanned aircraft. (The Israeli Air Force, which makes extensive use of drones, deploys these aircraft from bases originally built for manned airplanes). The existence of the Saudi base is a sign of growing closeness in the strategic ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and the huge importance the Obama administration attaches to drone warfare.
Obama’s drone policy received additional attention this week with the leaking of a memo that set out the criteria upon which the president can order targeted killings using drones, even when the targets are American citizens.
These satellite images show a remote airstrip deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia. It may or may not be the secret U.S. drone base revealed by reporters earlier this week. But the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone outposts. And its remote location — dozens of miles from the nearest highway, and farther still to the nearest town – suggests that this may be more than the average civilian airstrip.
According to accounts from the Washington Post and The New York Times, the U.S. built its secret Saudi base approximately two years ago. Its first lethal mission was in September of 2011: a strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born propagandist for al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia. Since then, the U.S. has launched dozens of drone attacks on Yemeni targets. News organizations eventually found out about the base. But they agreed to keep it out of their pages — part of an informal arrangement with the Obama administration, which claimed that the disclosure of the base’s location, even in a general way, might jeopardize national security. On Tuesday, that loose embargo was broken.
The image of the airfield, available in Bing Maps, would be almost impossible to discover randomly. At moderate resolutions, satellite images of the area show nothing but sand dunes. Only on close inspection does the base reveal itself. In Google’s catalog of satellite pictures, the base doesn’t appear at all.
The images show a trio of “clamshell”-style hangars, surrounded by fencing. Each is more than 150 feet long and approximately 75 feet wide; that’s sufficient to hold U.S. Predator and Reaper drones. The hangars are slightly larger, though similar in shape, to ones housing unmanned planes at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Shamsi Air Field in Pakistan, which once held U.S. drones, boasts a group of three hangars not unlike the ones of the Saudi base. No remotely piloted aircraft are visible in the images. But a pair of former American intelligence officers tell Danger Room that they are reasonably sure that this is the base revealed by the media earlier this week.
“I believe it’s the facility that the U.S. uses to fly drones into Yemen,” one officer says. “It’s out in eastern Saudi Arabia, near Yemen and where the bad guys are supposed to hang out. It has those clamshell hangars, which we’ve seen before associated with U.S. drones.”
The former officer was also impressed by the base’s remote location.”It’s way, way out in the Rub al Khali, otherwise known as Hell, and must have been built, at least initially, with stuff flown into Sharorah and then trucked more than 400 kilometers up the existing highway and newly-built road,” the ex-officer adds in an e-mail. “It’s a really major logistics feat. The way it fits inconspicuously into the terrain is also admirable.”
Three airstrips are visible in the pictures; two are big enough to land drones or conventional light aircraft. A third runway, under construction, is substantially longer and wider. In other words: The facility is growing, and it is expanding to fly much larger planes.
The growth has been rapid. When the commercial imaging company Digital Globe flew one of its satellites over the region on Nov. 17, 2010, there was no base present. By the time the satellite made a pass on March 22, 2012, the airfield was there. This construction roughly matches the timeline for the Saudi base mentioned in the Post and in the Times.
“It’s obviously a military base,” says a second intelligence analyst, who reviewed the images and asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject. “It’s clearly an operating air base in the middle of nowhere, but near the Yemeni border. You tell me what it is.”
If this picture does prove to be of a secret U.S. drone base, it wouldn’t be the first clandestine American airfield revealed by public satellite imagery. In 2009, for instance, Sen. Diane Feinstein accidentally revealed that the U.S. was flying its robotic aircraft from Pakistani soil. The News of Pakistan quickly dug through Google Earth’s archives to find Predator drones sitting on a runway not far from the Jacobabad Air Base in Pakistan – one of five airfields in the country used for unmanned attacks. The pictures proved that the Pakistani officials were actively participating in the American drone campaign, despite their public condemnation of the strikes. Until then, such participation had only been suspected. While the drone attacks continued, the U.S. was forced to withdraw from some of the bases.
So far, reaction to the Saudi base has been relatively muted. American forces officially withdrew from Saudi Arabia years ago, in part because the presence of foreign troops in the Muslim holy land so inflamed militants. It’s unclear how the drone base changes this calculation, if at all.
The drone base’s exposure is part of a series of revelations about the American target killing campaign that have accompanied John Brennan’s nomination to be the director of the CIA. Brennan currently oversees targeted killing operations from his perch as White House counterterrorism adviser, and would be responsible for executing many of the remotely piloted missions as CIA chief.
In addition to the drone base disclosure, an unclassified Justice Department white paper summing up the Obama administration’s criteria for eliminating U.S. citizens was leaked this week to NBC News; the document argues that a judgment from an “informed, high-level” official can mark an American or robotic death – even without “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” (.pdf) The White House has since promised to give select Congressmen the classified and detailed legal rationales behind the white paper. But Sen. Ron Wyden told Brennan at his Senate confirmation hearing that the Justice Department is not yet complying with President Obama’s promise to disclose those legal memoranda. Feinstein said she was seeking eight such memos in total.
In their hours of questioning Brennan, however, the Senators didn’t once ask the CIA nominee about the secret Saudi drone base. Perhaps that’s because they didn’t have a visual aid.